Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Dame Janice M. Pereira, has urged the legal profession to uphold the integrity of the judiciary.
The chief justice’s remarks were delivered in St. George’s, Grenada during the special sitting of the Supreme Court to officially open the 2015-2016 Law Year on Thursday. The address was simulcast in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), as well as in eight other member-states and territories of the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
During her hour-long address, Pereira stressed the need for a holistic approach to safeguard the individual and institutional independence of the judiciary, according to a BVI government statement.
She said that the existence of an independent, effective and competent legal profession is a key element in safeguarding and promoting the independence of the Judiciary.
“This is significant because the role played by the legal profession is critical to the proper functioning of the justice system,” Dame Janice said. “Whether the wheels of justice move along a smooth and effective pace or they grind as if along a gravel path depends to a considerable extent on how well the legal practitioner performs his or her role in the conduct and pursuit of the causes before the court.”
Periera said that the service of the legal profession to society is very critical and important but lamented that, over the years, it has come under much scrutiny and criticism.
“Disbarment, suspensions and other sanctions against members of the legal profession are becoming all too common place,” she said. “This begs the question, what happened along the way. It is the solemn obligation of every member of the profession, individually and collectively, to safeguard the integrity of the profession.”
Pereira said that the role of the bar association is pivotal in advancing the course of judgement and that it is necessary to have a fully functional bar association to which every legal practitioner is a part, according to the BVI government statement.
“The time is come when we must move away from the culture where only an interested few champion the cause for all,” she said. “The bar must never underestimate the power it holds as a collective body.”
Pereira applauded attorneys who have demonstrated exemplary performance and conducted themselves in a respectful manner while contributing immensely to the jurisdiction of the region.
The chief justice provided comprehensive updates on all projects and initiatives over the past year, including the Family, Commercial, Civil and Criminal Divisions of the Court, the statement said.
It said updates on access to justice, the use of technology, the jury process and training were also provided.
The Commercial Court in the BVI was singled out as having a model court “in many effects,” with a replica set to be created in St. Lucia, the statement said.
Pereira highlighted the BVI government’s purchase of Digital Court Recording Systems for use by the magistracy, with the E-Filing Pilot Project initiative in the BVI also getting special mention, the statement said.